Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Burbank) said that Steve Bannon, former aide to President Trump, could be held in contempt of Congress for invoking executive privilege during questioning by the House Intelligence Committee last week.
“I think it’s likely that he will face a contempt citation,” Schiff, the committee’s ranking Democrat, said at a Council on Foreign Relations event on Feb. 16.
Bannon refused to answer any questions except 25 questions approved by the White House. To all of those, Bannon answered with a simple “no.”
In a rare showing of bipartisanship, some Republicans on the committee supported Schiff’s calls for Bannon to be cited with contempt.
“I’m not OK” with Bannon refusing to answer questions about topics related to the administration’s transition period, said Republican Rep. Trey Gowdy of South Carolina.
Under executive privilege the president can refuse to release some documents that are in the public interest. However, that privilege does not extend to the campaign period or the transition from candidate to president.
The White House sent a letter to Capitol Hill late Wednesday that attempted to explain why Trump’s transition period falls under its authority to assert executive privilege — a move intended to shield Bannon from answering questions, according to the Washington Post.
The letter claims that “some of the same factors are implicated in terms of the President needing to have candid advice of others during the transition that a privilege that has never been held to apply during the transition should be held to apply,” Schiff told CNN.
Bannon took a similar strategy in his first appearance before the panel last month, infuriating lawmakers during a marathon session in which he engaged in testy exchanges with both sides and refused to answer questions.
The panel issued a subpoena to compel him to answer questions, but that did little to change his attitude. Bannon pushed back his appearance before the committee on three separate occasions before Thursday’s hearing.
The House Intelligence Committee is investigating the White House role in election meddling by the Russians.
On Friday, Special Counsel Robert Mueller indicted 13 Russians for their role in the scheme.
“I think there really is no choice for our committee but to move forward with contempt,” Schiff said Friday.
If Bannon is found guilty of the charge, he faces a penalty of not less than one month nor more than 12 months in jail and a fine of not less than $100 nor more than $1,000.